Building a Greener and More Sustainable Office

UCR Performing Arts Administration Office and Office of Sustainability team up for pilot project

Group shot

The staff of the Performing Arts Administrations Office showing their iPads. From left to right, Kathy DeAtley, Reasey Heang, Katrina Oskie, Benicia Jacob, Bryan Bradford, and Cynthia Redfield. Photo by Ross French

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (  — Creating a greener, more sustainable and more efficient office is the goal of a new pilot program being conducted by the  University of California, Riverside’s Office of Sustainability and the campus’ Performing Arts Administration Office (PAA).

The UCR Green Office Program is a voluntary program designed to reduce waste, save money and environmental resources, and create a healthier work place for employees.

John Cook, the director of the UCR Office of Sustainability, was in the process of developing the program when he was approached by Reasey Heang, the financial and administrative officer in Performing Arts Administration (PAA).  Having written her thesis on sustainability while earning a master’s degree in organizational leadership with an emphasis on business administration at Colorado State, she wanted to reduce the “footprint” of the PAA office.

woman with iPad

Reasey Heang reached out to the Office of Sustainability to try to make the Performing Arts Administration greener and more efficient. Photo by Ross French

“I have a personal interest in making our place greener, and the PAA office staff was supportive in this effort,” Heang said. “I sought out John and the UCR Sustainability Office and he helped make this happen.”

It wouldn’t be a simple task. The eight-person staff is responsible for academic advising, academic personnel, course scheduling, facilities management, financial reporting, graduate program administration, payroll and purchasing for the Departments of Creative Writing, Dance, Music and Theatre. That meant a lot of paper, printer toner and electricity being used on a daily basis in support of the students and faculty of those departments.

Cook worked with the PAA staff to survey the office and learn more about both their habits in the office, such as how many pages they print and whether or not they turn off their equipment at the end of the day, as well as some voluntary personal information such as how they commute to work, whether they ever eat vegetarian or vegan meals, and if they drink out of refillable water bottles.

When the survey was completed, Cook worked with the staff to implement some changes, including:

  • Replacing the office’s eight individual personal printers with a pair of centralized, networked printers that require a code to release print jobs. “Removing personal printers usually reduces printing by about 30 percent,” Cook said.
  • Providing the eight employees with an iPads that they can use to create, sign and send documents electronically
  • Outfitting each desk with a smart power strip that makes it easy to turn off equipment to save electricity.
  • Providing a small compost bin for coffee grinds and tea bags.
  • Replacing bottled water with a filtered water system.
  • Supplying printer paper made out of environmentally friendly sugar cane residue and other sustainably sourced supplies.
  • Hanging digital displays that will list upcoming events and class information, as well as sustainability tips.

Cook said that each of the 10 UC schools either has a green office program in place or is in the process of implementing one, adding that UCR is the first school to experiment with replacing personal printers with iPads. Heang said that the iPads are integral to limiting the office’s printing needs.

“In our office, using some paper is inevitable,” Heang said. “But we are trying to be creative and innovative, emailing documents instead of mailing them, putting documents online so they don’t have to be printed out, using the iPad for advising sessions.”

“The biggest challenge we face is getting other units we work with to be supportive in our efforts, she added. “The culture of the campus and the organizations that we work with will need to change for us to reach a goal of zero paper use.”

Cook said that the iPad allows users to do almost anything with a document electronically.

“With an iPad, you don’t need to print a document to sign it or to fill in the dates. You can convert it to a PDF and send it via email,” Cook said. “You can also carry all your documents with you and have them backed up on a server.”

Kathleen DeAtley, the program promotions manager for PAA said she “loves” using the iPad, but admits there has been somewhat of a learning curve.

“It has to do with changing how we work,” she said, adding that a variety of apps have helped them implement new practices. “We know our destination, but how we get there will be an adventure.”

Cook estimated that the devices will pay for themselves in about two years through savings of costs of paper, toner and electricity.

“It’s a pilot program, so once we are done, we’ll get a cost-benefit analysis of what we are doing, and decide what we should do differently,” Cook said. “Once we get it out there and show that it financially makes sense and isn’t onerous on the employees, then I think we will see it proliferate.”

Both Cook and Heang said they expect the program to have minimal impact on students and faculty.

signs on a wall

Class information is posted with web addresses and QR codes to give students easy access to class content. Photo by Ross French

“I think they will probably find it more convenient,” Cook said. “The will find it more technologically savvy and will notice less waste, less clutter. And the students will know that their tuition dollars are serving them better.”

For the staff, the program has raised awareness of how their actions affect the environment as well as the campus’ budget.

“We are getting people involved, making them aware of sustainability, that even the small act of turning off a monitor can make a difference.” Cook said. “Most people don’t ever see the electric bill that their office generates. They don’t see the greenhouse gas inventory that we have a commitment to reduce. They don’t see the impact that they have. This program helps them realize how much waste they are generating and see the impacts of what they are doing.”

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-4756

Additional Contacts

John Cook, Director of the Office of Sustainability
Tel: (951) 827-1270

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